Sometimes when you're considering an itinerary, there's a port or two that you're ambivalent about. That's how I felt about Orion II's visit to Pontianak, which is at the Equator. I didn't know exactly what to expect and, therefore, wasn't expecting much. It turned out to be a fantastic day!
Orion II is the first ship of its kind to call upon Pontianak. While the Indonesians here have encountered Westerns before, it's usually just a few backpackers on their way to treks within West Kalimantan. This was the first time so many Westerners descended on the city and the first time so many arrived by boat.
It seemed like every local official was on hand at the port, as were the local media. This was a big event! A landing party consisting of the captain and some guests went ashore and took part in a ceremony.
Afterward, everyone boarded modern, air-conditioned buses for a half-day tour of the area. Here's what we saw…
- State Museum
- Mujahidin Grand Mosque
- Equator Monument
The State Museum was interesting and we were treated to Chinese dragon dances. This was a lot of fun and it was made all the more special because a school field trip was also at the museum at the time. It was great fun taking photos with the kids and watching them enjoy the Chinese dragons!Next to the museum was a lovely craft shop and we were able to browse as a local musician played and a beautiful Indonesian woman danced. Handicrafts included clothing, wood carvings, beaded jewelry, woven bags, and more.
Many of us also stopped into a local candy shop. I purchased several items to try, including fried basil leaves, aloe vera tea, durian candy, and other assorted crunchy and sweet snacks.
We ended up at the mosque during midday prayer so we could only walk around the building but dozens of children came out to greet us. They were so interested in meeting us and having their photos taken. Boys and girls mixed freely and the mosque seemed totally integrated. I'm so glad we made this stop.
Finally, we visited the Equator Monument, where you can stand on the line that divides the northern and southern hemispheres… a great photo op!
While we only spent a short while in Pontianak, it was well worth the visit. This was a challenging call to make due to the river depths (1 meter of clearance and at one point Orion II did touch the muddy bottom of the river). We can't thank Orion enough for scouting such a unique port and finding a way to bring us here.
Photos © Leonard Hospidor